Norman Thomas Gilroy war diary, 30 April-17 May 1915
30th April 1915
17th May “
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“Bulla” late “Hessen”
Friday 30th April 1915. Was rudely awakened about 5.30am this morning by the “Prince of Wales” which is still within hailing distance of us, firing 4 or 5 shots from her 12” guns; the concussion was so great that it made the ship vibrate. At 10.30am Major Bruce came aboard; he was very sunburnt and looked tired, but otherwise alright. He had quite a number of experiences to relate, and had a good concourse of listeners. The first day he was ashore he was taking his battery up the hill when he was met by a larger crowd of Australians running down; he stood in front
of them and asked why they were retreating?; they answered that the position was too hot, and they could not find any of their officers; he told them they must hang on and to do the best they could. Seeing the position was very serious he handed his own battery over to Capt Whitting and went back to the firing line with the Australians, and stayed till they became settled. At another time a party of Australians seeing he and his Indian gunners sneaking up after them, mistook them for Turks and were about to open fire on them, when the word was passed on that it was
the Mountain Battery. Later still, himself and Capt Whitting were out reconnoitring, when Capt W. noticed a Turkish sniper aiming at them from a hole in the ground; he snatched a rifle from one of the orderlies hands and fired a few shots; the Major, though he did not see the enemy, fired a couple of shots at the place Capt W’s bullets landed; the sniper did not reply so they finished their work and returned to the base. Snipers have been responsible for a big percentage of the total casualties especially amongst the officers at whom they take particular aim; most officers have now taken
the precaution of removing their distinguishing badges, and wear the same uniform as a private. The Major was very pleased with Capt Kirby’s behaviour, and said he had been injured while directing operations; feeling faint, he sat down on the ground, and continued to direct from there, till he was discovered by the Red Cross people; they took him to the base, from where he escaped, and went back to his battery, considering that the bandages were sufficient treatment. Many German & Turkish spies have visited our trenches several of them pretending they were English officers. In many cases
they have been detected through their faulty English; on these occasions the troops have wasted no time on ceremony but promptly transfixed them. For cool audacity some of them are unequalled, wearing the uniform of an Australian officer, one came into the trenches and ordered a retreat, a sergeant, entertaining suspicions asked him who he was, and to what regiment he belonged, as he did not recognise him as one of his battalion’s officers. The spy replied “Never mind who I am, you carry out my orders”, but the segt. now fully aroused arrested him, and sent him to headquarters where it was
proved beyond doubt that he was a spy. He received a spy’s penalty, at the hands of the court martial. One occasion the warships were shelling an important Turkish position, when from the top of a hill close to where they knew the Australians to be, a heliograph message was sent, signed by the name of a high Military officer, ordering them to cease fire. They immediately did so. When asked by the General why they were not still shelling the Turks they showed him the heliograph message which they had received. Knowing no such message had been sent by rightful authority
he ordered a continuance of the bombardment. It was later proved that the message was the work of the enemy. The Turks, have on several occasions desecrated the corpses of our dead; some of our men have revenged the insult by similarly treating theirs. On the first night of the invasion, the captured positions were only retained by the most strenuous efforts of the men. General Bridges who, it is said, was deeply affected by the loss of such large numbers of Australians reported to General Birdwood that it was impossible to hold the position, as the men could not support him. Genl. Birdwood replied that
the positions must be retained at all costs. They were retained, and the cost was not small. Several barges being sent alongside the majority of the M.B. transport branch disembarked this afternoon; some of the mules were very restive while being slung from our deck to the barges below; one kicked so much that it broke the rope tied around its loin and fell into the water; it swam right around the ship, and was being hauled aboard when the rope slipped & suffocated it. The light cruiser that figured so prominently in the Heligoland fight at the beginning of the war, H.M.S. Amethyst, was a good deal in evidence cruising among the fleet today.
She has done some good work here, having passed through the Narrows and carried the party that cut the cable between the Dardanelles forts and the Asiatic side. She is a very pretty craft, and looks like a big destroyer. At 3.30pm a hostile shell from somewhere ashore or the Dardanelles came whizzing across the hills and dropped into the sea a couple of hundred yards astern of us; the splash made was similar to that made by the shells on Sunday morning. The fire that we observed inland last night is still burning & showed up plainly tonight
Saturday 1st May. The usual morning duel Gaeben V. British fleet advanced a stage further at 4.30 this morning. No damage done to British side opponents damage, if any unknown. One shell dropped perilously close between the P. of Wales and us. At 5.30p we moved further out to allow a hospital ship to take up our anchorage. The shooting of big guns & musketry continued throughout the day, sometimes vicious, sometimes slack. Aeroplane reconnoitres continue to be carried out daily. We have been told that when the aeroplanes pass over the Turkish lines, the Turks cease firing
their big guns and cover them with bushes, so that the aeroplanes may not give the positions to warships; all out air-craft are fitted with wireless, and strategic information is signalled while the aeroplanes are still in the air. The Commander of the Dardanelles air fleet is Flight Cmdr. Samson, who is a notable aeronaut. The allies distinguishing mark for air craft is a red ball painted inside a red ring on each wing. The German’s mark is a black maltese cross on each wing.
Sunday 2nd May. The naval officer who had charge of the boat that was
sent to take Capt Hoskyn and the remainder of the M.B. ashore, and who stayed for breakfast, told us that our men had made an advance last night. As do all who have seen them fight he had nothing but praise for the Australian soldiers; they are particularly fond and good at digging out Turkish snipers, and have a great aversion to taking Turkish prisoners; many of them, after having a hard days work in the trenches, at night time volunteer to search for snipers; the number of snipers who have met death at their hands is surprising. A soldier who was speaking
to a pal whom he had seen with a prisoner earlier in the day asked “What did you do with that prisoner you had Bill?” “Stuck my bayonet through the ---” At another time a sergeant saw two men taking a prisoner towards base, he asked them did they think it was worth the trouble? and inserted a bayonet beneath the prisoners ribs. It is a surprising fact too, that many prisoners attempt to escape from the concentration camps; of course in that case it is the sentries’ duty to prevent any such attempt; by this means many attempted escapees have been bayoneted. At Cape Hellis a crowd
of prisoners were captured in a group, the officer of the soldiers who was responsible for the capture left the prisoners to the care of his privates while he made arrangements for their detention. He was very surprised when, after a time his soldiers walked in without the prisoners. They placidly replied to his question as to their disposal that they all tried to escape so they had to kill them. Now that all the Indians have gone, the ship seems quite deserted, but Oh certainly much cleaner. After dinner the mate took a couple of sick Indians who were left aboard, over to the
Hospital ship; at the moment he reached the gangway a Naval Red Cross cutter came alongside containing several wounded Turkish prisoners who had been taken out of a trench that one of our men o’ war bombarded and destroyed during the week; they were mounting a gun at the time, in a position where they could fire along the beach to our base, when the warship fired and blew the head off the german officer commanding the party besides killing and wounding 17 Turks; they laid there since Wednesday till this morning when one of the destroyers sent
a party ashore to remove them. Some of our men shot two snipers dead the other day, when they rooted the bodies out of their burrows they proved to be Turkish women. The place that has been burning behind the hills during the past couple of days is Maidos; a Greek farmer who had a farm near the town, and who was badly treated by the Turks, informed the British authorities that there was a large magazine in the town packed with ammunition; the W.S. shelled it till the magazine was destroyed & the town on fire. At 6.30 tonight, just as darkness
began to descend, one of our aeroplanes flew over the Turkish positions, adjoining the ridge that our men occupy, it circled around for awhile, then turned suddenly and flew back to the Ark Royal; immediately it turned around seven warships opened fire on the position; clods of earth could be seen flying into the air, and shrapnel burst in all directions; the beauty of the scene in the semi darkness is indescribable. At 7.30pm after each ship had fired about 30 rounds they ceased fire. The object of their bombardment was evidently to clear the ground for our men to advance,
for at 7.45 the rifle fire became very severe. Though the W.S. bombarded so heavily & it seemed impossible for anyone to live through it, the volume of the Turkish musketry (recognisable by the note) indicated that a large number of them remained. Throughout the engagement the w.s. played their searchlights on the Turkish positions, presumably to blind the Turks & show our men the lay of the land. This is not the only point where there was firing tonight, for away to the Southward Achi Baba was simply alight with bursting shells, and the flash and boom of the w.s. guns was continuous for hours.
Monday 3rd May. At 8am we steamed along side a big water boat and commenced taking in water from her tanks. Between 9 and 10am several big shells dropped into the water amongst the transports; the proverbial good luck was with us however for no ship was hit; the masters of all the boats lost no time in getting their ships to safer anchorages though. At 2.30pm a Taube (German) aeroplane flew over, through a telescope four Black crosses could be seen on her wings; we heard several shots and saw shrapnel bursting in the air near
the baloon ship, but could not be sure whether it was from the W.S. anti aircraft guns, or the aeroplane people throwing bombs. It was flying at a tremendous height, and it was not long before it disappeared travelling Northwards. The baloon carried by the “Manica” has been doing splendid work, and is a great source of annoyance to the enemy; while it was at Cape Hellis yesterday afternoon, a Taube flew overhead, and threw 3 bombs at it, & one very narrowly escaped hitting it. This baloon is built like a big dirigible and it tied to the “Manica” by
wire ropes; it ascends a couple of hundred feet carrying two observers; it is fitted with wireless telegraphy and information is signalled to the warships direct. Photographs of the positions are also taken and by the time the baloon reaches deck the negatives are developed, and a print taken off; it does not stay in the air all day, but goes up two or three times morning and afternoon. It is understood here that the Naval authorities quite expected that 3 or 4 transports would be lost before the troops effected a landing on Gallipoli; how it
is that none were lost either at Cape Hellis or Gaba Tepe, on the first morning, was quite miraculous. The “Hymettus” which was hard aground when we left Mudros, was towed off soon after we left and brought her troops on here.
Tuesday 4th May.
The salvo of foreign shells was so warm this morning that the water tank, and ourselves were compelled to shift our anchorage; soon after we left a shell fell into the water at the spot we had been anchored. One boat however was rather unfortunate the “Remembrance” which is acting as refuse boat to the fleet, got a big shell
in her bunker hatch & had 3 men injured and 1 killed. This was the first hit scored by the enemy up to date. At 2pm the tug Vincent Greck, flying the white ensign, & with our 2nd Mate in charge came along side, it is attached to the Cape Hellis division of the fleet, and came up here with despatches from the flagship. The whole crew seemed to be rather tired of their job, and will not be sorry when they rejoin their ship; food was rather scarce, so they were given a liberal supply from our store. As was expected the 2nd related
a large number of doubtful experiences, but as he is rather famed aboard the ship as a perverter very little reliance was placed on his statements. Three of us were aboard the tug when our boat cast free from the tank and commenced going ahead; we all ran down to the forecastle head, and one chap jumped aboard when the hawser snapped, leaving the other chap and myself aboard; the tug soon caught her and landed us aboard just in time for afternoon tea. Though the musketry continued throughout the day, the w.s. fire was very slack.
Wednesday 5th May. At 8am the transport “Sudmark” came alongside for water, pipes were laid from our tanks to hers and pumping commenced. She is carrying a big crowd of A.A.S.C. who are not yet required ashore & who expect to be returned to Egypt till the troops get further inland. A number of the complement came aboard and did a lot of purchasing from our canteen. They are all disgusted with the ship they are travelling on, and well they might be for she is the filthiest ship I have ever seen; there is no accommodation for troops and they have to sleep
about the decks; her coal bunkers have been on fire since leaving Alexandria and all efforts fail to quench it. A strong wind has been blowing all day making the sea rough and the weather cold.
Thursday 6th May. Cold and windy, watering the “Sudmark” continued throughout the day. No news whatever from the shore.
Friday 7th May. At 9am the “Sudmark”, having taken all the water she required, cast free and moved off to a fresh anchorage. At 10am a picket boat came alongside with orders, she had a Turkish prisoner aboard who was being
conveyed to one of the other ships, he was one of a party of 12 who were captured; 11 of them had since died, and he was kept to see what information he could impart, he was only about 5ft. 6. but was a very seedy looking individual not badly clothed in khaki, with a woollen cap, heavy greatcoat, and tan boots. His appearance altogether was not very ferocious but quite different to what I expected. At 11am the transport “Novian” also carrying A.A.S.C. came alongside for 300 tons of water; she had hardly made fast to us when soldiers swarmed aboard
eager to make purchases from our canteen. At 6.50p a big crowd of soldiers were aboard scattered about the decks talking, when we noticed an aeroplane approaching from the South flying at an enormous altitude; without a glass her distinguishing marks could not be seen; through the glass 4 black crosses could be seen; we all kept our eyes turned skywards, rather interested in her movements; slowing down as she approached, she flew over the top of us, as far forward as the bows, when she turned right around and flew Southwards. As soon as we saw her turn
around we expected something to happen. It did. Two very loud cracks, in quick succession aft and two great columns of water spouting heavenwards, about 30 yards from out stern, indicated where two explosive bombs dropped. Seeing the two boats tied together the airman evidently thought he had a good target. Had a strong wind not been blowing at the time his conclusion would probably have been justified and some damage done to the two ships. She evidently escaped the notice of the warships till the bombs exploded for there was not a single shot fired till
she was well out of range.
Saturday 8th May.
Quite different to the past couple of mornings this morning was beautiful and balmy, with the sun shining brightly, the sky clear, and the sea smooth. At noon, though we had not given the novian the full amount of water she required we were ordered to proceed closer inshore. We steamed close to where the “Queen” was anchored and dropped our anchor; we had not been there 10 minutes when we received a semaphore message to go further inshore; the anchor was picked up, and we went to within
½ a mile of the shore. At 1pm a launch came alongside with a Veterinary officer and his staff of 6 soldiers; he informed the skipper that he had orders to attend the wounded mules that were going to be sent aboard. At 3pm a trawler towed six barges alongside carrying wounded horses and mules besides ½ a dozen Indians to assist the Vet. with them, they were the worst cases that have been injured since the landing and were too bad to be left at the veterinary base ashore. The winches were used for slinging them aboard; when half of them had been
embarked a Naval officer came aboard and ordered the skipper to shift out to a position near the “Queen”, as it was likely that the Turks would get our range and bombard us if we stayed where we were any longer; he utterly failed to understand why we had been ordered to leave the first position we had taken up. Without waiting to complete loading, but making the barges fast to the side, the anchor was heaved up and we steamed out & dropped anchor near the “Queen” at 4.45pm. It was well for us that no time was lost getting away
as we had not left the anchorage 10 minutes when two great shells dropped into the water at the spot we vacated. One of them would most certainly have hit us & and done, goodness only knows how much damage. As soon as we took up our new anchorage the remainder of the mules were taken aboard & attended to by the Vet.
Sunday 9th May. Everything very quiet all day. Press received at night giving account of the Lusitania outrage.
Monday 10th May. Everything very quiet fine weather
Tuesday 11th May.
Orders received at 10am to go alongside water boat, we went alongside her and commenced taking in water. While we were there a barge load of sheep was brought alongside for us to embark, the Commander of the trawler that towed them out did not have any idea what they were for, or why sent to us; so they were all put down one of the holds, and penned up in a corner. The authorities seem to be making a general utility ship of us and dumping all sorts of undesirable things aboard.
Wednesday 12th May.
Alongside water tank all day, no news from shore, warships silent. At 7pm the Cape Hellis division of the fleet, commenced a very heavy bombardment against Achi Baba; they shelled the hills mercilessly for hours, the bursting shells lighting up the great impediment to the English army’s advance, and presenting a magnificent spectacle.
Thursday 13th May. As we had taken all the water we required from the tank we shifted back to our old anchorage near the “Queen” at 6.30am.
News received that the W.S. ‘Goliath” was torpedoed off the Cape Hellis position last night, and many hundred lives lost; also that the Turks have captured the Australian Submarine A.C.2. in the sea of Marmora. The day continued very quiet, the warships doing no work in the bombardment line. At 7.30pm a T.B. Destroyer came alongside and the Commander told our skipper “Darken your ship, a submarine attack is expected tonight. Good luck to you”. All lights were immediately doused, and the lifeboats swung out, ready for service:
The other transports and warships were also darkened the only lights visible being ashore and on the hospital ship. Waited up till 9pm to see if anything happened but as nothing did, I went to bed.
Friday 14th May. All the transports & war ships that were here last night, were still showing above water this morning so apparently no attack was attempted; on the flanks of the anchorages though, T.B.D.’s were patrolling constantly. A new baloon was brought up during the night & commenced observation
work this morning. It was anchored to a tug lying quite close to us, & at no great distance from the old one, which is much bigger than the new. At 10am a Naval Officer came alongside, and instructed the Skipper to proceed with as little delay as possible to Kephalo Bay, Imbros Isld. Most of the other transports had evidently received morning orders too, for they steamed away, though not to Imbros. An hours run took us to our destination and at 11.30am we dropped anchor in the bay we anchored in, on the previous visit we paid the island,
anchored in the bay were 3 T.B.D’s Cruiser “Blenheim” Aeroplane ship “Ark Royal” P.&O. boat Osiris, engaged on some Admiralty work, 2 Store ships 3 colliers and 1 hospital ship. There was one Collier that left Gaba Tepe a considerable time before us; we passed it on the way over & had been anchored quite a long while before it arrived. We had barely anchored when a semaphore message was signalled by the “Osiris”; asking by whose orders we came here; on receiving our reply he relayed it to the “Blenheim”. A hydroplane which had
been reconnoitring over Gallipoli alighted on the water about a mile down the bay, and motored to a buoy between us & the “Ark Royal”. We are not afraid of being torpedoed here, besides having to pass the T.B.D’s patrolling the entrance, there is only 7 feet of water under us which would prove rather shallow for submarines to manouvre in. Anyhow even if we were torpedoed the ship couldn’t sink very far. A couple of destroyers, colliers and the baloon ship arrived during the afternoon & took up anchorages. At 7.30pm 3 French
battleships steamed in, and 30 minutes later 5 T.B.D’s arrived; these fresh arrivals rather congested the small bay. All the ships showing no lights, only black masses were observable in the gloom.
Saturday 15th May. One of the wounded mules died during last night, and as it was necessary that it should be buried a message was sent to the “Blenheim” asking instructions as to its disposal; the Commanding officer there replied that we should proceed to sea and bury it; the anchor was picked up and we steamed a couple of miles
down the Coast, where the engines were stopped & the carcase dumped; on the return trip a French T.B.D. steamed along close to us; in passing the headland at the entrance it crossed our bows; to avoid colliding with it our skipper had the helm ported which caused his vessel to run ashore: Soon the clear water was discolored with the red mud that was being stirred up by the propeller going full speed astern; she was hardest aground abaft ‘midships, so 80 tons of water had to be pumped out of the tanks amidships
before she slid off the bank into deep water at 1.15pm 3 hours after grounding. This little excursion was altogether a very expensive one for the water alone (being valued at £7 per ton delivered at the Dardanelles) £560 would just cover the cost and the coal consumption was heavy. During the afternoon H.M.S. “Lord Nelson” arrived and anchored in the bay, & immediately her anchor was dropped her torpedo nets were swung out. The Headquarter ship “Arcadian” carrying Sir Ian Hamilton and his staff, also arrived and anchored near the “Blenheim”.
Sunday 16th May.
Beautiful sunny day, everything very quiet. At 8pm a submarine arrived, travelling on the surface she came down the bay with her navigation lights burning brightly and signalling on her morse lamp till she made fast alongside a collier.
Monday 17th May
Being away from the fighting zone, and having very little to occupy the mind monotony is rapidly dulling the edge of enjoyment. The daily routine has been practically the same since the 25th. Arise at 7am for a bath, Breakfast 8am Pace deck 8.30 – 9am
Read 9a to noon, at which hour, if the weather is not too cold, a swim. Dinner 1pm. Pace deck yarn etc 1.30 – 2pm afternoon siesta till tea at 5.30pm. Pace deck yarn etc 6pm 7pm. Listen in for press 7pm till 8.30 when retire for night. Thus is good time being wasted; but of course the Transport officials will wake up some day, & remember they have no account of the old “Hessen” for a long while, & and will shift us on to somewhere else for a while.
Everything quiet today. Nil to relate.
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[Transcribed by Terry (David) Walker]